Despite being one of the most visible parts of our body, hair is also one of the least understood, not to mention least controllable, physical aspects of ourselves. Sure, we know how to dye hair, formulate special shampoos and conditioners, even style it in such a way that it maximizes the hair’s natural and unique qualities. But beyond that, and especially when it comes to hair growth, we’re still somewhat in the dark. However, here are some questions about hair growth that we can answer:
How Long Does it Take for Hair to Grow?
This varies between person-to-person, but generally, hair grows at an average speed of one inch every 30 days, or, 6 to 10 inches per year. This means that, try as you might, you’re probably not going to get waist-length tresses a month after you get your pixie cut!
Factors that Affect Hair Growth
While shampoo ads want you to believe that healthy hair comes out of a squeeze bottle, the truth is that hair growth is dependent on a number of factors, from genetics and ethnicity to age and even the climate of your hometown. Physical and mental health are also governing factors for hair growth, even age and pregnancy.
Aging affects pretty much every aspect of our body, even hair. Whether it’s hair loss, hair thinning, or hair color changing to grey (because of a loss of pigmentation), age is going to change everything about your hair once you hit your mid-life (or earlier, depending on the person). And yes, age also affects hair growth: as you get older, the anagen phase (that is, the point of time when your hair follicles are actively growing) gets shorter and shorter, which means your hair spends less time growing and more time dying. Pretty morbid stuff.
Aside from this, our scalp also feels the effects of aging. Remember that your scalp is also made up of skin, and when skin ages, it’s less effective at keeping itself moisturized, which means less chances of growing healthy hair.
This is actually pretty tricky: no, the weather doesn’t directly affect hair growth BUT it does affect it in other ways: in warmer climates, your hormones are much more active. This means that your testosterone and estrogen levels are affected. These 2 hormones have a direct effect on hair growth: too much or less of one (or, more specifically, too much or less of a specific type of each one) could have adverse effects on hair growth.
The reverse also happens: colder weather usually slows down your metabolism, which, again, affects your hormones.
One of the major players that affect hair growth, ethnicity can dictate how thin or how thick your hair is, not to mention the type of hair you can grow. Visually, the differences are very much apparent, but their distinctions go beyond skin deep, with more variations between hairs of different ethnicities appearing on the microscopic level:
- Asian hair: Characterized by strong, straight, and round follicles, Asian hair is usually black or dark brown in color. Among the three ethnic groups, Asian hair grows fairly slow, at around half an inch per month. It’s also the least dense in terms of follicle density on the scalp. However, Asians hair is also less likely to fall out, with instances of Male Pattern Baldness in East Asians being the lowest compared to other ethnicities.
- Caucasian hair: On the other hand, Caucasian hair comes in a wider variety of textures, ranging the gamut from straight, wavy, and curly. This is due to the uniquely oval-shaped follicles that Caucasians have. Of the three ethnicities, Caucasians have the highest hair density, but unfortunately, they also have the highest chance of developing Male Pattern Baldness.
- Afro hair: Meanwhile, Afro hair is the most visually unique among the three, with its tight and powerful curls. Unfortunately, this means that Afro hair grows the longest amongst the three ethnicities, with Afro hair growing at a rate of one-third inch every month. Its elliptically-shaped follicles give Afro hair its distinctive characteristic, but it also makes it fragile and prone to breaking.
Of all the factors that govern how fast it takes for hair to grow, genetics is probably the most important. There are different ways that your genes affect hair growth, from providing you with a chromosome that promotes healthy growth, to shorting you on essential hormones that lead to Male Pattern Baldness.
However, it’s not as simple as having more or less of a particular chromosome; rather, it’s a complex problem that involves certain cells not reaching full maturity or having those cells reach full maturity too early. These malfunctioning cells are responsible for governing hair growth –if they’re working properly, your hair growth should be normal. However, once they go awry, you won’t be growing out as much hair as you used to after you naturally shed some.
You might be wondering what hair color has to do with how long it takes for hair to grow, but it actually does: scientists found that blondes really do have more fun, and in this case, hair. Between blondes, brunettes, and red heads, blondes had the most strands of hair in their scalp, with an average of 146,000 strands. Meanwhile, black haired and brunette people tend to have, on average, around 100,000 to 110,000 strands.
Red heads are the least lucky, with gingers having less than 86,000 strands of hair on average. But take note: these are for naturally colored hairs. That being said, blondes also have much finer strands, which means they’re the most fragile amongst the different hair colors. Obviously, artificial dye and pigmentation, no matter how long permanent hair color lasts, doesn’t actually affect hair growth (although the continued use of harsh chemicals can damage hair, which can lead to premature hair loss).
Getting a bob or fringe bangs won’t affect hair growth; if your hair is bound to grow out fast, it will grow out fast regardless of what hair style you use. However, proper grooming and care will increase your chances of healthier hair, which, in turn, can promote regular hair growth.
Constant hair coloring, heat treatments, and harsh shampoo can and will damage your hair strands, which will encourage hair loss (albeit temporarily, if you’re not suffering from pattern baldness). In general, avoid exposing your hair to too much heat, always use the least damaging hair extensions, and try to avoid excessive dyeing (or, at the very least, use dyes with the least harshest chemicals).
Trauma, stress, and mental health disorders like depression can affect hair growth, although the studies about this are still few and inconclusive. The most commonly cited, and prove, link between mental health and hair growth is alopecia. Alopecia, or Alopecia Areata, is a condition wherein a person suffers from hair loss and/or stunted hair growth due to stress.
For people with Alopecia, stressful situations activate certain hormones that instruct their autoimmune system to start destroying hair particles on their scalp. However, many scientists are finding that, despite this condition, people with Alopecia will, eventually, grow back their hair while people with Alopecia and pattern baldness will have to say goodbye to their locks forever. Talk about luck-of-the-draw.
Is There a Way to Grow Out My Hair Faster?
In general, no, there’s not a lot you could do to make your hair grow faster. That being said, there are things you can do to keep your hair healthy, which, in turn, increases your chances of maintaining healthy hair growth:
- Eat a Well-Balanced Diet: This ensures that your hair gets the nutrients it needs to stay shiny, healthy, and growing.
- Shampoo (But with Caution): Over-shampooing can dry out your hair and your scalp, so make sure you only use the amount you need to keep your hair clean.
- Minimize Heat: Heat Styling like hairdryers, curlers, or straighteners can damage the hair. Try to minimize the use of these as much as possible.
- Cold Showers: Rinse your hair with cold water in order to seal the cuticles, minimizing the risk of bacterial growth in your follicles.